The Congress on Thursday demanded that the government take the opposition into confidence on the proposed talks between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistan Chief Executive General Pervez Mushrraf.
"Yes, the government should take the opposition into confidence as there should be
a national consensus for the talks," senior party leader K Natwar Singh told reporters.
Singh, who is a former external affairs minister and chairman of the Congress foreign affairs cell, pointed out that, "The government should be well-prepared for talks, which should take into consideration all aspects of Indo-Pak relations."
He also emphasised that, "There should be no third-party involvement in the talks."
Asked to clarify, he said, "All those people in Kashmir (the Hurriyat)."
He pointed out that Vajpayee had called Congress chief Sonia
Gandhi on Wednesday evening to inform her that his government was inviting the Pakistan chief executive and not extending the ceasefire beyond May 31.
He said that since "trade and economic relations are the gateway to ensuring durable peace, the Vajpayee government should give it special emphasis".
Singh criticised the government for its Kashmir policy, saying, "This government does not know how to run itself and the country."
He alleged the policy lacked direction. "First the Vajpayee government screamed from the rooftops that it would not talk to Pakistan (on Kashmir) because of General Musharraf's military regime. Now it has done a complete U-turn by inviting the general for talks," Singh pointed out.
Referring to the government decision of not extending the ceasefire, he said, "The casefire cannot be an end in itself."
He said that while the 1972 Shimla Agreement (concluded between Indira Gandhi and the late Pakistani prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was delivering the goods even after 29 years, Vajpayee's Lahore bus diplomacy had been rudely shattered after just three months with the Kargil conflict.
He alleged that there were "too many cooks" formulating the government's foreign policy as the result of which people had no idea in which direction the country was heading.
"If the ceasefire had been ended before, maybe many lives could have been saved in J&K," Singh pointed out and added that "it did not produce the desired results."
Asked if he thought the government decision of inviting General Musharraf could have been done under foreign pressure, Singh said, "I certainly hope not."
Meanwhile, Bharatiya Janata Party general secretary Narendra Modi said, "The Hurriyat will not be allowed as mediator in the talks between India and Pakistan. If Pakistan tries to make the Hurriyat a mediator, India will not permit it."
Modi too ruled out the possibility of foreign pressure saying, "India takes measures for peace on its own initiative."
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